90. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

Deliver opening of business. Ref: Saigon 0250.2

The assumption contained in reference message is correct. Article 5 provides that civilians involved in military and para-military duties will be withdrawn. Civilian police advisors will be included in these categories.
We have just received agreement from the other side to meet again in Paris with the view towards finalizing agreement.3 Hanoi’s message was surprisingly forthcoming and cited no specific conditions beyond the need for seriousness on our side. They suggested a meeting on November 14 or any other suitable date. For the time being do not pass this on to Thieu but if he asks inform him we are confident the other side will meet in the near future.
I plan to set the meeting with the other side on November 15, thereby giving us ample time to assess Thieu’s reaction. We will then proceed with the game plan as outlined to you previously as follows: we would stay in Paris three or four days, communicating with you and Thieu from there, in order to reach a final text. There would be no more substantive changes once we leave Paris and we would stop bombing the North completely. After a few days in Washington I would then proceed to Saigon for the final preparations for signing. The final leg, which was under consideration before, might still take place, in which case I would return to Saigon again. We envisage a period of two to three weeks from end of Paris meeting to signing of agreement.
The President has decided to send Haig to Saigon departing Washington Wednesday evening, November 8, arriving Saigon at opening of business, Friday, November 10. Haig will carry with him a personal letter from the President to Thieu dated Wednesday, November 8. The letter will lay out in blunt terms the President’s dissatisfaction with the dangerous drift in U.S./GVN relations and clearly state the President’s determination to proceed on the basis of the draft agreement with the modifications which we are determined to obtain from the North Vietnamese. The President’s letter will make specific what he considers we can and cannot try to get changed, which as you know is far short of Thieu’s demands. The letter and Haig will ask Thieu to advise us promptly of his intentions, making it clear that the communication from the President is final and of a character which does not invite further debate. Haig will be instructed merely to deliver the letter to Thieu, explaining and elaborating on its contents if necessary, and obtain Thieu’s response. He will remain in Saigon no more [Page 356] than one or two days, hopefully returning to Washington Saturday afternoon but not later than Sunday, November 12.
In the interim you obviously must continue to impress upon Thieu in every way possible the need to proceed with essential preparatory steps leading towards a final agreement within the outlines of the general draft agreement already reached. He must somehow be brought to understand that continuing public attacks will not be tolerated. You should draw on your own argumentation to drive this point home between now and November 10. Haig will be instructed to use full Presidential authority to impress upon Thieu that this is the final word and that there will be no further bargaining. Thieu must also be prepared to embrace the modified agreement, the draft of which I will Flash to you from Paris. He should then receive me in Saigon following the Paris leg in an atmosphere of victory.
The foregoing information about Haig’s visit is still tentative and for your planning alone. It is essential that this information be shared with no one else. If we proceed along these lines, I anticipate last minute notification to the bureaucracy. Haig’s party will be limited to himself, one aide, a secretary, and perhaps one substantive officer. Because of the character of Haig’s trip, I think he should stay either with you or the White House4 rather than MACV compound.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The message is unnumbered but later messages refer to it as WHS 2313.
  2. Not found.
  3. The text of the North Vietnamese message is attached to Tohak 3/WH 29674, November 4, 2138Z. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1))
  4. An apparent reference to the residence of the Deputy Ambassador, Charles Whitehouse.